Lake Tahoe, California - Neilson Powless conceded 18 seconds in the overall standings Thursday and slid one place to sixth in the overall standings at the Amgen Tour of California. But the 19-year-old from Roseville, California, managed to hold onto his lead in the SRAM "best young rider" standings despite a scare and a few nervous moments.
About 160 kilometers into the 212-kilometer stage, Powless's rear tire went flat on a high-speed descent, just as the peloton was chasing hard to catch an 18-rider breakaway that included Axeon Hagens Berman Cycling Team's Logan Owen.
Powless said he was both fortunate and unfortunate after teammate Will Barta gave up his rear wheel to help get him quickly get rolling again.
"The bad luck was that it was in the fastest and windiest section of the course," Powless said. "Tao Geoghegan Hart and Ruben Guerreiro stayed in the front to save for the finish and the rest of the guys came back and paced me back on. We were chasing for about 15 kilometers, but luckily we were able to make it back. I did my best in the finish but unfortunately lost some time. The effort to make it back was too much to go that hard on an uphill sprint to the line."
Heading into Friday's 20.3-km individual time trial, Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-Quick Step) holds a 22-second over Peter Stetina (Trek-Segafredo) and 37 seconds over George Bennett (Team LottoNL-Jumbo). Powless is 61 seconds off the lead and tied on time with BMC Racing teammates Rohan Dennis and Samuel Sánchez, who sit in seventh and eighth, respectively.
Axeon Hagens Berman General Manager Axel Merckx said the time trial in Folsom favors whoever recovers best, especially from Thursday's stage that started at sea level and climbed up to more than 2,600 meters.
"It will suit the rider who still has some good legs to do a good time trial is basically what it comes down to," Merckx said. "We will see who that person is. For us, it is about doing the best we can and discovering what a 20-kilometer time trial feels like after five days of hard racing."
Besides Powless, Guerreiro and Geoghegan Hart are also in the top 20 overall. Guerreiro is 13th, 1:34 off the lead. Geoghegan Hart is 16th, 2:13 back. The pair is also second and third, respectively, in the best young rider standings.
In Thursday's stage, the remnants of an 18-man breakaway survived to the finish for the second time this week. Toms Skujins (Cannondale Pro Cycling Team) beat Adam De Vos (Rally Cycling Team) and Xabier Zandio (Team Sky) in a three-up sprint. Owen was unable to keep pace with the escape group and dropped back. The winner of the Under 23 edition of Liège-Bastogne-Liège said a sore knee - which has been hurting him since Stage 2 - threw off his rhythm.
"I worked pretty hard to get in the breakaway, which I think took a lot out of me," Owen said. "The issues I have been having with my knee have thrown me off quite a bit. I have been trying to recover from that. Then, once we got up pretty high in elevation, I just couldn't breath. I didn't do an altitude camp like some of the guys on the team, so I definitely paid for it today."
(Photo of Neilson Powless by Davey Wilson.)